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  • | 4:00 a.m. August 13, 2014
  • East County
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Florida’s registered Democrats, all 4,599,236 of them, have a tough decision in 12 days.

Do they vote for the gubernatorial candidate who is a life-long, true-blue, blue-blooded, Progressive Democrat, the one who stands for all of the Progressive causes and principles that are the hallmarks of Democrats?

Or, do they vote for the candidate who two years ago gave up his adult-life declaration and registration as a Republican; who served as a state senator, state education commissioner, state attorney general and governor of Florida all as a Republican; and who has since decided that he is now a devoted Democrat?

How do they vote:

For a candidate who stands for Democratic Party principles?

Or for a candidate who stands for himself?

Do Democrats put aside principle and vote for the man who has not proven himself as a Democrat; who has demonstrated an insatiable desire to be elected to higher and higher offices; who portrays himself as the empathetic politician who cares about Floridians more and better than any other candidate? Do they vote for the Republican turned independent turned Democrat who they think has a better chance of defeating the Republican governor whom they despise?

What is the higher order: principle or political victory?

What a dilemma. It is, but it also isn’t. This is politics, of course. Sadly, whatever it takes to win.

But if you’re a Democrat and listen to former state Sen. Nan Rich, she makes you think about Charlie Crist. In a candidate forum earlier this summer at the annual convention of the Florida Press Association, Rich ticked off a list of positions Crist held as the Republican governor, positions anathema to Democrats:
He embraced the expansion of school vouchers, allowing public-school students to use them in private schools; appointed conservative Supreme Court justices; opposed adoption by gay couples; and opposed Obamacare when he was running for the U.S. Senate.

Said Rich: “I don’t think people believe you can change 180 degrees on every single issue and have people trust that.

“Imitation isn’t real,” Rich said. She called Crist a ghost, an apparition. “You can call yourself a Democrat, but you have to earn that right,” Rich said.

Who is the real Charlie Crist?

According to an 11,000-word profile of Crist in the Aug. 11 Tampa Bay Times, “the answer is complicated

“Charming or scheming? Focused or distracted? Disciplined or reckless? A lover of people or a user of people? Uncommon empath or unrelenting opportunist?

“The answer to all: Yes.”

The Times profile (, “Who is Charlie Crist?”) reaffirms what diehard Republicans have said about Crist all along:

“Detractors have portrayed Crist as a shaker of hands more than a maker of laws, an office-seeker more than an office-holder, not so much a leader as a chaser — a serial campaigner who is seeking not only votes but more elemental affirmation.

“The implication,” according to the Times, “has been that there’s something unctuous or fabricated about his eager persona. The reality, though, is that the act is no act, say people who have watched him as an adult but knew him as an adolescent. If it’s phony, he’s genuine,” said the Times profile.

When Crist also appeared at the Florida Press Association forum, he delivered a command performance of the empathetic Crist. He put his hand on his heart, and with the face of a sad dog, told the press people repeatedly how much he cares.

“The way the current administration has treated the middle class and poor, it has really bothered me very much,” Crist said. His parents, he said, “always taught me to be decent to other people.”

Classic Crist — aiming for your heart.

And then there’s Crist the governor, the man Florida voters elected in 2006 to govern the state, to be the CEO-COO in charge of state government.

This one paragraph in the Times profile says it all: “Where his predecessor, Jeb Bush, periodically spent hours surrounded by staffers debating and discussing the implications of major decisions, it was rare for Crist to carve out even half an hour for briefings. Crist’s aides often lacked sufficient time to give him basic pros and cons. If he wasn’t traveling, Crist typically showed up at the office after 11 a.m. and left before 3 p.m.”

His right-hand man, George Lemieux, told the Times Crist started losing interest in the job of governor during the summer of 2007 — “not even a year into his term.” Said LeMieux: “The campaigning has always had more allure to him than the governing.”

And this is the man Democrats apparently, according to polls, believe should be sent back to Tallahassee as their party’s standard bearer and Florida’s governor.

Rich? Or Crist? There should be no dilemma.

Recommendation: Nan Rich

The other statewide race on the Democratic Party ballot is that for attorney general — a career Democratic office holder and public servant, George Sheldon; and Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, a state representative from Broward County.

Sheldon is clearly the more qualified candidate. A Plant City High School graduate, Sheldon has served as a state representative in the Florida House; as an assistant attorney general under popular former Attorney General Bob Butterworth; and secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Family Services under Crist.

Recommendation: George Sheldon

Voters may not realize it, but there are two other candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for governor in addition to incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. There’s no need to mention them.

Recommendation: Rick Scott

East Manatee Ballots
Circuit Judge Group 17 — Susan Maulucci
School Board District 2 — Rodney Jones
School Board District 4 — Karen Carpenter
School Board District 5 — Julie Aranibar

Governor — Rick Scott (incumbent)

Governor — Nan Rich
Attorney General — George Sheldon

Over the past two weeks, members of the American Jewish Committee, an international human-rights organization, have received briefings from AJC’s Jerusalem director on Israel’s war with Hamas, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

If only the world knew and would believe what is true.

Here are some of the statistics on the rockets fired by Hamas militants from Gaza, according to Israel Defense Forces, as of Aug. 6:

• 3,356 rockets fired at Israel
• 2,303 rockets hit Israel
• 356 intended at IDF forces operating in Gaza
• 116 hit populated areas in Israel
• 578 were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome
• 475 landed within the Gaza strip
• 597 rockets were launched from civilian facilities:
• Approximately 260 launched from Gaza schools
• Approximately 127 launched from cemeteries
• Approximately 160 launched from religious sites (mosques)
• Approximately 50 launched from hospitals
• 3,000 rockets remain in Hamas’ stockpile

Other details we haven’t heard:
• Hamas pays Gaza residents not to leave their homes during the bombings.

• After Israel drove to the Gaza-Israel border early in the conflict to deliver medical supplies to Palestinians, Hamas refused to let the deliveries cross the border.

• Hamas has prevented Palestinians from receiving medical help at an Israeli hospital Israelis set up on the Israel-Gaza border.

• Israel has delivered 40,000 tons of humanitarian supplies to Gaza in 1,856 trucks.

• Journalists have told Israeli officials Hamas threatens to kill journalists in Gaza if they show Hamas militants firing rockets or rocket-launching locations.

• “The top message is this,” said AJC Jerusalem chief, Avital Leibovich, “This phenomenon (Islamic terrorism) is at your doorstep. It’s worldwide.” — Editor